We ground the basis of our interpretative work in the first-hand account of D’Arcy McNickle’s life in his own written words—his diary. Many scholars who have encountered his diary, however, have dismissed it because he seems to write endlessly about his gardening activities. We see these as vital interpretive windows into his experiential world and how he made sense of it.

It is striking that McNickle’s novels are often used to interpret his sense of self, but his gardening has been dismissed. We imagine gardening as a form of creative production, a way of asserting a sense of oneself in the world and one’s place in it—that is to say, a form of place-and, indeed, world-making. Throughout his diary, McNickle reflects on both natural and built landscapes—Indigenous places and Indigenous places transformed by settler colonialism. The Interpretive Garden exhibit aims to showcase this important aspect of McNickle’s life. The physical garden exhibit features plants that he mentioned growing in the diary. There are also interpretive posters—featured here as pages of the website—that connect the garden to other facets of his experiential world. All of the posters for the garden draw from entries D’Arcy McNickle wrote in the spring of 1942.

Throughout the entire process of working with D’Arcy McNickle’s diary and creating the Interpretative Garden, we came to realize once more that the past is never past. It is, instead, tethered to our own moment. In an effort to gain insight into the experience of gardening, the URCT (Undergraduate Research Consultant Team) originally grew their own gardens while displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic and in so doing we gained a clearer sense of the way in which displacement served as another theme in the diary. From there the URCT partnered with the Carolina Community Garden and created the Interpretive Garden Exhibit located at 212 Wilson Street in Chapel Hill.

We invite you to explore this website as a virtual installation of the D’Arcy McNickle Interpretive Garden. Each page of the website recreates one of the interpretative posters at the garden: More than a Garden, Hearing an Experiential World, Mapping an Experiential World, and A World Beyond Imagination. This website was created as a project for AMST 341: Digital Native America.

Contributors:  Mackenzie Collura-Repp and Professor Dan Cobb